The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Breastfeed to Save Babies From Health Problems

Dar Es Salaam — The endless cry of a baby at the back seat of a bus was menacing, but, her mother in late teens knew what her child wanted, was shy to show it.

"I feel ashamed to show my breasts to the public," she said meekly.

A middle aged woman standing in front of her politely advised her to use a baby blanket if she didn't want to expose her breasts.

"Wherever you are, no matter what you are doing, you are expected to feed your baby if the need arises. If you don't and the baby keeps crying you end up with heaps of insults from onlookers and you are suspected of stealing the baby," said the woman who later introduced herself as Lydia Swebe, working at health centre in Kinondoni.

She says in most cases country wide, a woman who doesn't breastfeed is frowned upon.

The World Breast Feeding Day, whose celebration started yesterday to encourage mothers the importance of breastfeeding and improve health of babies around the world.

In Tanzania the week is used to highlight extreme situations to which children are exposed putting their health and survival to greater risk in developing countries like Tanzania.

The world celebrations also attempt to promote intact feeding practices for emergency preparedness to reduce infant mortality rate even for low-income households

CCBRT technical advisor, maternal and child health programme, Dr Brenda Dmello says breastfeeding is the best way to provide newborn with the nutrients they need, World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six-month old and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.

"One million infant can be saved by just breastfeeding in the first hour after the birth of the child. If mother comprehend the benefits of breastfeeding a long time it can save the lives of 250,000 babies annually," she notes.

According to the experts say many types of immunoglobulins are found in abundance in the 'first milk' called colostrums.

Among the immunoglobulins, IGA is special as it offers protection against infections of the ears, nose, and throat.

Lactoferrin, which is an iron-binding protein, is found in breast milk which offers antibiotic protection against bacteria such as staphylococci; also an important digestive ingredient is found amply in breast milk.

Rebecca Mkisi, a midwife and children specialist nurse at Buguruni Mnyamani Healthy Centre adds that mothers should make sure that they breast feed their children to the recommended time so that children can grow health.

"The unique characteristic of breast milk is that it keeps changing to meet the requirements of infants at every stage of baby growth certainly it is the protective nourishment that offer immunity against many illness," she adds.

She adds that both mother and baby benefit in breast milk because it embrace hormone that provide the repetitive suckling of the baby at the breast.

Oxytocin also triggers the release of the milk from the breasts, it promotes positive emotions, relieves maternal stress and anxiety and enhances the bond between the mother and child. Further, this hormone also causes the uterus to contract gradually and regain its pre-pregnancy size.

Essentially breast feeding lays the foundation for a long life bond between the mother and child, it equips the child with sound physical and emotional health to take head on the years to come.

The risk of young mother, insulin-dependent diabetes is 34 per cent less for children who have been exclusively breast-fed during the initial three months of their lives. Breastfeeding also cuts the risk of childhood cancer.

Researches show that breast-fed babies are 50 per cent more likely to do well in life and occupy respectable positions in society.

Most intriguing about the mother and child report show the best place on Earth to be a mother is Sweden, followed by Norway. Of the 10 worst countries for mothers, nine are in Africa. They include among others, Sudan, Sierra Leone, DR Congo, Eritrea and Angola.

On the state of the world's children, the report mentions that 75 million children worldwide fail to complete primary school, either because they drop out in the early grade or because they never had a chance to attend school.

"These children's early days, months and years are often spent fighting for survival, and many of their families are too consumed with meeting basic needs to provide quality learning for their children," notes the report.

The study established a correlation between maternal education and children's success in school. In countries where more women are literate, more children stay in school.

"In short, providing mothers with access to education, economic opportunities and maternal and child health care gives mothers and their children the best chance to survive and thrive," the report says.

The objectives of world breastfeeding week 2009 include drawing attention to the vital role that breastfeeding plays in emergencies worldwide, inform mothers, breastfeeding advocates, communities, and the media on how they can actively support breastfeeding before and during an emergency.

Children are the most vulnerable in emergencies - child mortality can soar from 2 to 70 times higher than average due to diarrhoea, respiratory illness and malnutrition.

In Tanzania alone, 578 children die in every 100,000 births. And, according to the Medical Women Association of Tanzania (Mewata),that situation should be addressed urgently before a generation is wiped out.

For luck of good feeding, malnutrition causes high mortality in children and statistics indicate that it is the single greatest cause of child mortality in Tanzania as it contributes to over one half of child deaths.

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